Stories from the Big House

21 February 2012

Sisterly Advice: How to Treat a Lady

Page 4 of Paula's letter to her brothers
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale is home to the Open Court Archives.  Many Hegeler and Carus family letters and papers are stored, catalogued and researched at the Morris Library.

Christina Gould, located the following letter to Edward and Gustave Carus from their sister Paula Carus, giving them advice on how to treat a lady. The letter is undated so we are not sure when or for what occasion she was issuing this advice but the letter is fabulous.  Perhaps others could benefit from Paula’s advice.

Dear Edward and Gustave,
I now take a great task upon myself by writing you this letter, and because of the importance of the facts herein discussed please read it, and think carefully over all that I have said.
1.  Buy the girls’ tickets –both ways if possible—the way back (away from Madison) if not.
2.  Have rooms—the best possible and have a decent place for them to eat so that they will not have to be embarrassed by walking up and down the streets looking for an eating place.
3.  See that your clothes are in perfect order.
1. Good dancing pumps and silk black stockings. (Edward, you must see that if Gustave goes he will have these.)
2. A good evening suit—dress suit—you know the kind. A fine shirt, collar and white tie.
3.  The kind of hat necessary.
4.  Gloves, white gloves that fit.
5.  Then some kind of a coat and a white craval (I mean ruffled neck piece)
That is all I can think of along the clothes line.

Paula, Libby, Gustave and Edward Carus in 1901

Now when you meet her at the train be dressed decently. Gus should not have old shoes on but polished ones.  Your clothes should be brushed and put on strait, and you should be dressed warm enough that you do not look cold.

Then bring her to her room and be sure to introduce her to some girl—at least one.  I would be frantic if I should not meet any if I were one of your girls.  She must know one of her own sect living in the house where she is staying.  Then see that she has everything she wants. I don’t know what the custom is about supper. You will have to find out about that. You will also have to find out about the flowers.  She will need a special color to match her dress, but I don’t know just what you should do about it. Ask some other boy.  Then, don’t forget—the carriage—I suppose both of you will take one together or work it some way like that.

Paula Carus
 Then have all the dances taken that you possibly can. And see that she is introduced sometime to everyone she dances with.

I guess you know everything else to do that evening. Make some engagement with her for the next day. I don’t think you are meant to eat breakfast with her, but perhaps so. Try and do as many interesting things as you can, but also do not do anything she does not care to do.

Arrange everything very carefully with her before she comes—and be sure you know what train and also be sure that she knows where you live and who with so she will not get in the same fix that I was. –That was terrible.

Now for a very personal talk with both of you.
Please don’t get her into an embarrassing situation by anything that you do or by the way you dress. You owe to the girl (I talk in the abstract for I only know one.) that you are dressed well washed clean, no high water marks.

Don’t let her fall on the street (It is all icy, I know.) but don’t hang on to her arm too much.

Good luck to you both and please—oh please remember what I have written here and above all remember that she is a woman and you are a man—that every inch of you must be a man and show that you are in the way you treat her.

                                                                        I am, only,
                                                                                    Your loving sister,